Vote no on Measure 2B
By Dennis Simpson
At first glance, voting “yes” on Measure 2B appears to be a no-brainer. However, voters should give thought to why they are being asked to divert TABOR money to such a fundamental government service as road maintenance. Placing this item on the ballot creates the impression that a no vote will result in deteriorating road conditions and that things are so dire at City Hall that this is the least important thing that city government does.
Like many other citizens, I believe that maintaining existing infrastructure is second only to maintaining public safety on the priority list of what I expect city government to provide. In recent years, our city has chosen not to take care of our streets while they have been spending money on lower priority items such as The Avalon Theatre, the Las Colonias amphitheater, subsidies for CMU, subsidies for the DDA, and transfers to other organizations that don’t provide basic services. While these activities have the potential to improve our lives, it is hard to understand why these expenditures are sacrosanct while road maintenance is subject to the chopping block if voters don’t allocate more money.
One of the first things recently hired City Manager Greg Caton did was to increase the 2017 budget for road maintenance to $3.5 million and I commend him for taking this bold action. He had to spend some political capital to get this done and he did this without touching the excess TABOR funds. There is every reason to expect that this funding level will be replicated in subsequent years.
Ballot issue 2B does not require that the reallocated TABOR funds be added to the current level of road maintenance expenditure. If 2B passes, the city will be free to re-direct $3.5 million annually to anything that meets its fancy and instead use the excess TABOR funds which would result in no additional spending on roads. As with other ballot issues that have been produced by the city, careful reading of the text is required to predict what might happen if citizens vote yes.
In 2007, voters approved the accumulation of excess TABOR funds to be used for early retirement of the debt incurred to build the Riverside Parkway. This was a wise decision and we are well on our way to paying off the debt three or four years early. The annual payments on the debt are $3.8 million per year. If the debt is paid off early, TABOR will require that the reduction in debt service be returned to taxpayers unless taxpayers vote to let the city keep the money no longer needed to make debt payments.
In both 2013 and 2015, we were asked to change our minds on our directive to pay the debt off early. Prior to both of these elections, proponents predicted dire results if the voters said no. These dire predictions did not play out. The basic same cast of characters is now attempting for a third time to raid the set-aside money. There are obviously more vocal proponents than vocal opponents and the proponents obviously have more time and money to spend campaigning. I realize that the odds are heavily in favor of the proponents but am hopeful this letter allows people to see both sides.
Many taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet and have been forced to make difficult choices. Some things are required in our daily lives and some things would be nice to have but we can’t afford them. We must insist that our city government understand that we expect the same level of discipline when they spend the money we give them.
A “no” vote should not be interpreted to mean that we want roads to fall apart. A “no” vote will mean that we expect a change in how decisions are made. Tell them to take care of roads with the money we already give them and to ask us before spending millions on “feel good” projects. Not everything can be a top priority.
Please vote no on 2B.
Dennis Simpson is a self-appointed watchdog of local government, a role he considers a community service. He is a CPA with experience in government accounting.